European Clubs Cross Country Champions

There is absolutely no words to describe the utter joy, jubilation and delight last Sunday morning when all eyes were focused on the ECCC in Oeiras to see Ennis Track AC crowned European Clubs Cross Country Champions.

Never disbelief though, as this teams dedication and commitment to their sport parallels none.  Gerry Hayes and friends created a club 30 years ago to instill a love of athletics to all ages.  Its motto Be The Best You Can Be one as important today as it was when created.  Gerry down through the years along with all the coaches over the years have given their time, encouragement and love to many many athletes of all ages.

This group of athletes beginning with Mark Hanrahan, Dylan and Dean Casey, formed part of a team that to this day became unbeatable.  They have been a team since u10 and the beauty of these lads is that success has never changed them.  They rock up to a race, have a chat with many familiar faces and just do what they love doing – running.  Niall Murphy, Cian O’Boyle, Thomas McGuire made up the 6 man team to travel to Portugal.  

The first hurdle was passing the required Antigen test before they could take part in the competition, thankfully all passed that hurdle.  The next task was to travel to Oeiras and walk the course.  Blue skies shone down on a hilly, dry course, a little different from the mucky grassy cross county events in Clare.  

Sunday was organised with precision, early breakfast, bus to venue and getting into the zone.  The race started with the Ennis Track boys getting out in front and then settling into the race.  What a sight to see the Ennis track singlet leading the race, in Europe.  Dean and Dylan Casey dominated the race with Niall Murphy and Mark Hanrahan not letting them out of their sights.  The day was theirs, Irish flag not once on the podium but twice and six ecstatic boys beaming from the Gold Spot will be a memory that will remain priceless for the duration of their lives. 

As the lads said after the race,  “the Finn Valley AC and Youghal AC U20 girls were fantastic, cheering them on from around the course and handing Dean the Irish flag  which he brought over the line.”  A mention here to all the amazing supporters who travelled over to be there for this momentous occasion.  The cheering and sheer joy was a sight to behold.  

You could talk for hours about this team’s spirit but behind every athlete is a coach who breathes and eats athletics and this man is Pat Hogan.  Well known for his dedication to all his athletes and his love for what he is doing.   What a man, what a coach. Congratulations also to Marie Roche, Ita Hanrahan and Ger Casey who are the backbone of Pat’s coaching team.

The work that happens behind the scene is just flabbergasting and these tripsor indeed the build up to these competitions would not happen without the support of the Ennis Track Committee who tirelessly work away.  We are very grateful for all these individuals.    

We would like to take this opportunity to thank all who sponsored the lads, especially Rochford Pharmacy, Athletics Ireland, Ennis Track, Mayor Ann Norton of Ennis Municipal District, Clare Council,  Clare Community Games, St Francis Credit Union and Thomas Barr who donated a signed singlet for raffle. 

photo by Clare Champion of Mayor Ann Norton

As someone asked where to now and the reply “North Munster Schools”, a very very grounded team who we will continue to watch with pride.

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